Making Jazz Chords sound Bluesy

Making your jazz comp sound more blues can be a great way to vary how you interpret songs. There are several jazz standards that are great to interpret with a blues feel.

In this lesson I am going to take a part of a progression from a jazz standard and give some examples of how you can play the chords so that it sounds and feels like blues.

The Blues is a huge part of Jazz, and it is a useful if not essential skill to be able to integrate this feel into your comping. This lesson is going to give you three approaches to make comp ideas sound more bluesy. I am going to demonstrate it using the first part of the standard “There is no greater love”

Some chord voicings

To make the examples we need some chords. In example 1 I have written out 5 voicings for the first 4 bars of “There is no greater love”

Making Jazz Chords sound Bluesy ex 1

You should notice that for both the Eb7 and the Ab7 I am using a #11, so they are Lydian dominants since that is what fits best in this key.

Bluesy Riffs

Blues is very riff based music. You probably already know a lot of the standard blues and boogie riffs on guitar that I play in the videos.

To add this to a progression like There’s No Greater Lover you need to make short melodies that you can repeat through the changes and the melodies need to be very rhythmical in the sense that they convey the groove of the tune. We are trying to communicate the feel not creating rhythmical tension on top of the rhythm section.

Making Jazz Chords sound Bluesy ex 2

The melody in example is a 4 note quarter note melody, so it states the groove of the song and I have chosen a melody that is quite easy to move around the changes in a natural way. Mainly because it is the same melody for two chords and then again for the next two chords.

Since the comping approach is more about being a part of the rhythm section groove than being colour on top I also make a variation in the 4th bar. This is because that helps conveying the form of the song, this is similar to how you will hear drums set up the transition to the next part of the song form.

Riffs with repeating chords

In example 3 you will find a riff that is repeating the same chord and once in a while changing the melody note. This riff doesn’t really have a melody, but since the comping is pretty full and a lot of the subdivisions are played it is a great way to really make it clear that it is a for example a shuffle feel.

Making Jazz Chords sound Bluesy ex 3

The melody is really simple since it is only two notes and then I am playing most of the 8th notes so that it is very clear what the feel of the song is.

Chromatic slides

Another thing that is part of the blues is the leading notes and the blue notes. Since we are not playing an actual 12 bar blues it is difficult to really emphasize the blue notes. We can however use leading notes or leading chords as blue notes that we then resolve. One way to do this that also uses a bluesy phrasing is to slide from a leading chord up to it’s resolution.

In the example I am sliding up from a half step under the chord.

Making Jazz Chords sound Bluesy ex 4

The construction of the riff is really basic, for each chord I am also using the same voicing a half step under it and slide it up to resolve.

Putting the approaches together

As a small etude I have used these ideas together in example 5.

Making Jazz Chords sound Bluesy ex 5

That was some ideas on how to make comping sound more bluesy. I hope you can use it in you own playing and that you can transfer the ideas to the songs where you need them.

You should check out my lesson on making Jazz lines sound more bluesy if you want to investigate further: Making Jazz Lines Bluesy

And you can of course also check out the Blues comping lesson in my webstore: F Blues Comping Etude #1

If you want to study the examples away from the video or article you can download a pdf here:

Making Jazz Chords sound Bluesy

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you want to hear.

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